Grand Blue – 01 (First Impressions) – Learning to Swim

Kitahara Iori moves back to the seaside town of Izu where he grew up in order to attend university. He’ll be living with his uncle, who runs the Grand Blue Diving Shop. Upon entering, Iori is met with a scene he never thought he’d see: a huge group of naked burly guys playing rock-paper-scissors.

Iori flees the site, but is quickly caught by two of the dudes, and learns they’re juniors at Izu University, making them his senpais. They were playing a game to determine who would fill their scuba tanks; they’re in a diving club and want to recruit Iori, who declines as he can’t swim.

Iori won’t just be living with his uncle, but his two female cousins as well, Nanaka and Chisa, both of whom have grown quite beautiful in the ten years since he’s seen them. There’s a particular aura around Chisa that suggests she’s looking forward to seeing Iori, or at the very least will give him a chance.

Iori blows that chance without even realizing he had one, because just as he walked in to a debaucherous display, so too does she, with him at its center, half-naked, drinking, shouting, and generally acting a damn fool (i.e., a college freshman). His attempt to smooth things over fails specatularly; Chisa’s first impression of him is that anything he touches must be thrown away.

His senpais Shinji and Ryuu demand he party with them that night, assuring him they’ll get him to orientation on-time. They do, but with two caveats: he’s hungover six ways from Sunday, and he’s in nothing but his boxers. That is how the whole of his freshman class meets him.

Iori has been swept up in the waves of college life, and it feels like his seniors are giving him a “swimming” lesson of sorts. The only way to learn is to jump in and start paddling, but Iori’s attempts to do so only invite more scorn, not just from Chisa, but from a hot blonde guy named Imamura Kouhei, who wears a t-shirt declaring his otaku-ism.

He also gets plenty of attention from the cops for continuing to ask people for their clothes. He finally gets a shirt by recruiting Kouhei to the Diving Club, which is called “Peek-a-Boo.”

Iori is inevitably thrown into more situations of cavorting and heavy drinking, and both he and Kouhei prove ill-equipped to resist the temptation to overdo things. To be fair, the peer pressure to drink as much strong liquor as possible is extremely high…though we see that Chisa is able to sip responsibly and stay above the fray.

The morning after their latest college party experience (involving a staring contest in which one person tries to get the other to spray their drink) both Iori and Kouhei arrive at class in their underwear. Clearly more swimming lessons will be needed…but despite Iori’s insistence the Diving Club is not for him….c’maaahn. You know that cat’s joining.

Grand Blue looks great and is a lot of fun, effectively capturing the raw energy and abandon of early adulthood. Those who have attended college know that it isn’t just about studies, but the experience; the change in one’s lifestyle to something more independent than one’s home. It’s about making a new home, and making a new family.

Most importantly, it’s about trying new things (and yes, sometimes failing and/or suffering). But as Yoda said in The Last Jedi: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 09

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As the entire episode takes place aboard Teiwaz’s planetary cruiser Saisei, there are no battles this week, except those within the minds of our characters, particularly Orga and Kudelia, who must place Tekkadan and the Martian resistance respectively into larger, more powerful hands. After all, the next steps that need to be made could lead to war.

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That being said, while I have my lingering doubts about Teiwaz and the somewhat inscrutable, almost too friendly McMurdo Barristan, a quick check-in on McGillis, Gaelio, and Ein underscores how tenuous Tekkadan’s position is. They must become stronger, which means aligning themselves with Teiwaz through a blood oath between Naze and Orga.

Meanwhile, Barristan asks Kudelia to make Teiwaz a direct appointee. When Kudelia turns to Mika, he likens her situation to the time he first killed someone: it was a choice her entire future will depend on. It’s also a choice that takes your innocence away, making you less of a child and more of an adult.

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This is an episode filled with young people taking the necessary next steps into adulthood, whether it’s Orga putting aside his pride in an autonomous Tekkadan, Kudelia accepting the blood already on her hands and formalizing her commitment to potentially cause even more of it to be shed.

Orga and the boys also go all out with their celebrating in Saisei’s main street, with Orga drinking way too much (which was probably not much at all) and being offered a handkerchief by a beautiful woman, Merribit (who is unquestionably a cool, confident adult) who tells him adults “have to deal with many things.”

Kudelia also gives Fumitan a necklace that matches her own, a sign she sees her as more than just her maid, and unless I’m seeing things, Fumitan continues to look a bit suspicious while betraying a tinge of guilt over…whatever she’s doing when no one is looking.

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Orga appears passed out, but in reality is listening to Biscuit and Mika as they talk about how Orga’s guts have allowed them to keep “dreaming on” in the face of insurmountable odds, and ekeing through battles they had no business winning but for a hearty helping of luck. Biscuit also expresses his wish that Orga would rely more on them, rather than be the one everyone relies on. That’s what family’s for.

Orga also gets to see something he’s never seen before after waking up; Ride stashing away excess sweets and treats bought from Saisei’s shops, not for himself, but for the younger kids when they cry. Ride may still be so young he still has his spots, but his life has forced him to be an adult for those younger and weaker than him, and Orga is heartened by what he sees and knows he’s making the right decision.

Finally, speaking of stepping into adulthood, there’s one thing Shino needs that he can’t get on either the Tekkadan or Turbine ships. The day after, it’s clear to Yukinojou that Shino got laid, while Eugene proudly/awkwardly mentions to Laffter that he’s an adult now too, having been with his first woman the night before.

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The next day is when everything becomes official between Tekkadan and Teiwaz; between Orga and Naze; between Kudelia and Barristan. Everyone gets dressed up, as adults do, and everyone dons black robes that obscure their distinctive outfits. Orga exchanges his old pride for a new kind: the pride of knowing the house of Tekkadan that he built now stands on firmer ground. Kudelia, too, is no longer in limbo.

Things will probably start to move a lot faster now that Tekkadan is one with Teiwaz. They’ll have to deal with many different things, because that’s what adults do.

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Golden Time – 02

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A week into the semester, Kaga still obsessively trying to make contact with Mitsuo, who continues to avoid her. This irks Tada, but he concedes that ignoring her it Mitsuo’s choice, just as feeling bad for her is his. Tada accompanies Mitsuo to a party the film club is having at “Golden Time” restaurant. Tada is ensnared by the aggressive tea club in the next room and parties all night. The next day he’s rescued from club recruiters once again by Linda. They part when he spots Kaga sitting alone again. She tells him no clubs have approached her, and he suggest she reach out to more people. A pushy club recruiter from another college wrangles them into a three-day, two-night retreat.

Having experienced it ourselves (at art school, no less), we have to applaud this series for so faithfully depicting the chaotic first week of college life. New, fascinating, and unexpected experiences abound for Tada, and at times it is downright overwhelming. We like how the series exaggerates these experiences for dramatic effect; the awesome ordeal with the hard-drinking, hard-partying tea club being the most prominent example. But he survives that trial, and comes out a more informed, wiser (and hung-over) man. But what really seeks to tarnish his golden time is the knowledge that Kaga may not be happy here. Again, no one can fault Mitsuo for acting the way he does towards her; it may seem cruel to us, but we simply don’t know the whole story.

Maybe she does deserve this treatment. But none of that matters to Tada; he wants to get to know Kaga better. She’s a tough nut to crack for sure, described by recruiters as overpowering or out-of-reach. Kaga herself says she feels invisible, even though Tada has been seeing and talking to her all along. Visibility is a common thread here. By abjuring Kaga, Mitsuo seeks to render her invisible. By the end of the episode, Kaga has finally remembered Tada’s name, meaning he’s that much more visible to her. Linda isn’t quite as visible to Tada as she’d like; the light from Kaga is obscuring Linda’s, who may actually be the better match.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Obserations:

  • That Tea Club Party was nuts. Binge-drinking; stripping; “bowling” into each other crotches and sniffing; turning first-year guys into man-slaves with the force of their personality. All it lacked was kegstands and beer bongs!
  • Cafe au Laits in bowls? That sounds like something you’d first encounter in college.
  • We see Linda out-of-costume for the first time, and we really dig her androgynous character-design. She really couldn’t look any more different from Kaga – which is the point.
  • Idiots usually make bad characters, but Tada’s no idiot, as a part of him is aware she could be putting on an act, even as he desires a relationship with her. Like us, he needs more info to make a solid judgment about her.
  • The cold open: an bandaged Tada in hospital garb runs through a dark forest and falls down a steep hill chasing a light. A figure approaches and lends him her hand. In a flash of light and flurry of roses, it becomes Kaga. But before that flash? The silhouette looked an awful lot like Linda. This, and Linda’s body language when with Tada, got us thinking, did she and Tada meet before his accident, and did he lose his memory of her?